Home. Heritage. Legacy. Legend.
In 1818, Cherokee John Ridge seeks a young man’s education at the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall, Connecticut. While there, he is overcome with sickness yet finds solace and love with Sarah, the steward’s quiet daughter. Despite a two-year separation, family disapproval, defamatory editorials, and angry mobs, the couple marries in 1824.
Sarah reconciles her new family’s spirituality and her foundational Christianity. Although, Sarah’s nature defies her new family’s indifference to slavery. She befriends Honey, half-Cherokee and half-African, who becomes Sarah’s voice during John’s extended absences.
Once arriving on Cherokee land, John argues to hold the land of the Cherokees and that of his Creek neighbors from encroaching Georgian settlers. His success hinges upon his ability to temper his Cherokee pride with his knowledge of American law. Justice is not guaranteed.
Rich with allusions to Cherokee legends, ‘Tho I Be Mute speaks aloud; some voices are heard, some are ignored, some do not speak at all, compelling readers to listen to the story of a couple who heard the pleas of the Cherokee.
Years later, ordinary things become extraordinary
In most museums, visitors gawk through glass cases as chips of pottery, broken unrecognizable fragments of clay. As they progress through time, viewers recognize colors and prints: blues, pinks, and greens of European-designed cups and saucers.
China and Cutlery. Something so ordinary, few consider it special. How many beef stews or chicken dinners are prepared and served on these ordinary things? Were pieces saved only for the company? How many cups of tea or coffee were sipped in times of tragedy, in times of joy?
On my first visit to my characters’ home, now the Chieftain’s Museum/Major Ridge’s Home in Rome, Georgia, archeologists unearthed the family’s cutlery engraved with the family’s “R” on the handle. Major Ridge, his wife, Susannah, and his son’s family, John and Sarah Ridge, owned vast orchards of apple and quince trees. They harvested corn and wheat, grew cotton, raised cattle and bred horses, ran a profitable trading post and lucrative ferry. The Ridge family became one of the leading families in Cherokee Nation before removal through determination and diligence. Undoubtedly, the “silver-ware” displays the family’s wealth, but it signals civilization and integration into affluent American culture.
Uncovered from an archeological dig in 1954 in New Echota, the Cherokee capital, this “slice of Earth” displays the remains and ruins of Elias Boudinot’s home—burned to the ground in a fire in the mid-1800s. They belonged to Elias Boudinot’s wife, Harriet Gold Boudinot. She met Elias while he attended the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall, Connecticut, and married the Cherokee Phoenix’s newspaper editor in October 1827, against the better judgment of her family. Were her serving places wedding gifts or did Elias order them for her from Philadelphia or Boston, and have them “shipped” via wagon all the way to Cherokee Nation Territory?
Years later, after time buries these ordinary things, they become extraordinary. They belonged not only to a home but became a people’s legacy. Sometimes the inheritance is broken, but each pattern tells the story of choices, celebrations, tears, a gift of chips, displayed and used again to remember.
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Meet Heather Miller
As an English educator, Heather Miller has spent twenty-three years teaching her students the author’s craft. Now, she is writing it herself, hearing voices from the past.
Miller’s foundation began in the theatre, through performance storytelling. She can tap dance, stage-slap someone, and sing every note from Les Misérables. Her favorite role is that of a fireman’s wife and mom to three: a trumpet player, a future civil engineer, and a future RN. There is only one English major in her house.
While researching, writing, and teaching, she is also working towards her M FA in Creative Writing. Heather’s corndog-shaped dachshund, Sadie, deserves an honorary degree.
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